THE new Mutare Town Clerk, Mr Joshua Maligwa, reported for duty on Monday, amid great expectations from stakeholders in the eastern border city who hope that the coming onboard of a new broom will bring about better fortunes.
For close to a decade now, the local authority has been facing a plethora of ills that have resulted in the total collapse of service delivery as evidenced by a poor road network, water shortages and a rundown sewerage system.
Resultantly, revenue inflows have dwindled to unacceptable levels as ratepayers are now boycotting paying rates while the council workforce has gone for months without salaries.
Our Senior Reporter, Abel Zhakata (AZ) caught up with Mr Maligwa (JM) at his office at the Civic Centre on Wednesday morning and the former Rusape Town Secretary spoke his heart and mind out on how he plans to get the city out of the doldrums.
AZ: Congratulations for landing this new post and we wish you well in carrying out your duties as the new chief executive officer of this lovely city. Mr Maligwa, for the three days that you have been here can you spell out the challenges that are facing this local authority? A general overview of the challenges bedevilling the council to be precise.
JM: This local authority is in a complete paralysis. One, the issue relating to corporate governance does no longer exist. There is really nothing to talk about corporate governance and when we talk about corporate governance we are referring to transparency in the way council does its business.
There is no accountability of resources; particularly capital resources and revenue. Revenue is being collected but at the end of the day you can’t really say this is what we have collected and this is what we have done with the money. Then there is also an element of integrity. As council officials are we really exhibiting the integrity which is expected of us as senior council officials or public officers?
So these are the issues we are saying in terms of good corporate governance it was no longer there at this council.
Then we move to issues relating to service delivery. The road network system has simply collapsed. You can’t navigate within our roads as they are littered with potholes, the drainage system is bad, and traffic lights are not functioning. Most of our public lighting systems in the high-density suburbs are down. That really demonstrates that service delivery is dead. Water is a problem.
It is a fact, Mr Zhakata, that Mutare boasts of the cleanest water in the country which is in abundance, probably followed by Rusape, but are all our residents in the city accessing it.
In Sakubva some residents are not getting water and for those that are getting some most of it is leaking down the drain. That’s what we call non revenue water. Water is continuously gushing out 24/7. If you go to Dangamvura there is no water and residents are actually getting water from shallow wells and that poses a serious health hazard.
The sewer reticulation system is down. I am reliably informed that if you go to most of our high density areas there is sewerage all over and if residents report of leakages their complaints are not attended on time. But if you come to this local authority you will find out that there are clients’ charters in every department but no one is adhering to their provisions.
AZ: What about non-payment of salaries?
JM: You can’t expect a human being – an employee of council – to come or report for work and execute his or her duties diligently without being paid. Honestly speaking how would a person come and report for work from January to December with no salary and expect him or her to diligently do work. It simply means one way or the other we would have failed.
Residents are not getting value for money. The little money that is coming is not being paid to the employees. So what we need to do now is to check where the money is going. Fine, if it is going to other statutory obligations like NSSA, Payee, ZESA, Zimra and others but then it is important that you should deal with the most important asset of an organization which are the workers.
So I expect our employees to be catered for first. When workers get paid we can then give them targets because they are paying their bills. We are now in a period of Integrated Results Based Management. We must ensure that we are compliant to IRBM which is aligned to Zim-Asset.
How then are we suppose to push employees to meet targets when they are not paid? So we want the welfare of our employees to be catered for first and it will become a balancing act. At the moment it’s a complete paralysis.
This organisation is in an intensive care unit but we need to balance it. From the little we might get now, we must ensure that the workers are given something and at the same time we do service delivery. With time things will change for the better and we will reach a time when we will pay salaries in full and service delivery will be happening.
AZ: Probably, the biggest challenge you are facing Mr Maligwa is that of residents and ratepayers who no longer have confidence in council. Some have quit paying rates and only a few are still honouring their obligations. How are you going to deal with this nightmare?
JM: If you are not doing service delivery then the residents will lose confidence. That’s an area I am really serious about. First and foremost we are supposed to engage our residents’ associations.
Whether they are there or not I don’t know but I will seek guidance. If they are there we are going to invite them and share notes. We want to hear their challenges and expectations. We are going to address residents together and ensure that we do things according to the dictates of the law. We are also going to invite the business fraternity and hear their concerns.
What are their challenges, expectations and how are we supposed to get out of this mess. We are in the bush and we must come out so that we compete with other tourist destination cities in Zimbabwe or even regionally. We need to consult with our Provincial Administrator and his provincial officers.
They should tell us what they expect from council. We also need to have a strong brief with our Minister of State for Provincial Affairs because local authorities must come up with policies that are in sync with Government policies. So there is no way we can do anything without seeking guidance from the Minister as well as our parent ministry.
AZ: Coming to the contentious issue of rates collections. How are you going to tackle it?
JM: We first need to cultivate the confidence which has been lost through service delivery and heavy consultation with all the stake holders. At least ratepayers must give us something per month and by so doing we will start from somewhere. We need to cultivate in our residents a culture of paying rates. We can’t run a city of this magnitude when we are bankrupt like what is obtaining at the moment.
AZ: Of late it has been a free-for-all here with workers exhibiting unprofessional behaviour. How are you going to instill discipline within the workforce and ensure service delivery?
JM: That’s a serious issue and, personally, I am a disciplinarian. I am somebody who doesn’t tolerate nonsense. I want to see things being done correctly within the confined times. I am going to have a meeting with our unions and urge them to tell their constituency that the new management wants to work out a plan to pay workers. I don’t believe in descending hard on someone who is not being paid. We pay them and then tell them to stay away from unprofessional conduct. When you pay people you have an edge to manage them well and instill discipline.
AZ: In the previous administration we had instances where management always quarreled with councillors. What relations should we expect now that you are in office?
JM: That’s a critical area Mr Zhakata. As a local authority we should always try to create a harmonious working environment between management and councillors as well as our general staff. There is supposed to be a symbiotic relationship regardless of political diversity or different opinions.
We it comes to local governance issues we need to work together. My appeal is that let us ensure good relations but at the same time I will not be afraid to tell them the truth of what needs to be done in terms of the law. This is a tourist destination city but I am worried that there is no functional website here.
There is nothing and how then are we supposed to market ourselves to the outside world. That information centre office in the CBD is no longer working. That is an area we need to work on. We are going to open that information centre so that when outsiders come here they will get all they need.
AZ: Lastly Mr Maligwa rumours have spread that you have an axe to grind with some of your officials who also took part in the interviews that subsequently led to your appointment. We have also heard that you are on a witch hunting mission. What do you say about these allegations? Are you going to start on a new page?
JM: Everyone has the right to compete in any post that is advertised. As for witch hunting, when a new manager comes in an organisation there is a lot of uncertainty. As for me this is now a fresh page, what happened in the past must stay there. If you start going against the provisions of how we are supposed to work from now going onwards during my tenure I will push you aside.
I know and it’s a fact that most of our employees were no longer doing council business at work. I say to our employees let bygones be bygones and now we want to rebuild the walls of Jericho like what Jeremiah did. Let’s start a fresh page and start working well with the new management.
If you did what you did long back when I was not here during Mr Muzawazi’s time why should I go back and sniff out such things. That’s not my business because I cannot fit there. I am simply saying we want to start on a fresh page and move forward. For those employees who competed in certain posts and did not succeed they should simply say my time shall come.
AZ: Thank you for availing yourself for this interview on short notice.